Sunday, June 06, 2010

Weekend Cooking: Sub"Herb"an Gardener

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Chuck and the family and I live in a pretty good-sized townhouse in a suburb of Dallas. We're literally a hop down I-75 from downtown Dallas, and one of our favorite destinations lately is the Dallas Farmers Market. In the interest of eating locally and saving money, we have transformed our fenced patio into a small-scale grower's paradise and we've even expanding outside the fence. We're a little more expansive than container gardening and far short of actual yard or raised bed gardening.

Would you like a tour?

This is a brand new flower bed we put in beside our front gate. The other side is a sea of ugly bushes we wish the apartment peeps would cut down completely, so we beautified where we could. This is a bed of yellow, orange, and white zenias along with "Victoria Blue" somethings and "Tiger Eye" something else's. Very technical, eh? This stuff does well in the Texas heat. That's all that really matters. And ignore the rogue cable. We have no idea what it is, but it needs to be hidden.

Here is the rest of the bed around the corner from the first group of flowers. We're planting lantana, lavendar, and there's even an itty bitty acorn squash plant. I plan to fill the rest of this space with other squash plants: straight or crook-neck yellow squash, and zucchini.

This is our herb bed. It's a tract of dirt that was filled with ivy and monkey grass before, but we cleaned it up and we have (starting from the top) a serrano pepper plant with its first bloom, chives, cilantro, parsley, basil, rosemary, and English mint.

On our first visit to the Farmers Market we ran across these mature pepper plants for $6 a piece. The one on the left is a green bell pepper with several babies onboard. The one on the right is a sweet banana pepper plant. I've already pulled six or seven banana peppers from this one, and it's got three more almost ready to go. There are tons of little pepperlings (a word?) all over, so I think it'll be pretty prolific. It was looking sad in this pic thanks to the 100-degree heat we've been having here in Texas. It's barely visible, but there's also a hanging tomato plan in the upper right-hand corner. No tomatoes just yet.

Finally, we have one of yesterday's Farmers Market buys. This is the biggest sweet potato I've ever seen in my life. They are literally the size of Greyson or bigger. We got three of these bad boys for $3.

We love our Farmers Market visits. We bought almost all of our herbs there, and this week's steals included cherries, blackberries, plums, a pineapple, and grapes, and one lone Vidalia onion. We still had leftover corn, 8-ball squash, and some other veggies from last week's visit. I love visiting with the local growers, and we're starting to recognize and get friendly with some of the sellers there.

I didn't take a picture of everything in our Subherban gardening paradise. We actually have a flat of herbs we're putting into containers so we can test out the best way to grow these plants in this gawd-awful hot weather. Stuff like more mint and basil and cilantro, thyme, lemon verbena, and even a curry plant! Chuck's hand smelled like curry all day yesterday from playing with that plant. Sadly, some little critter (probably slugs) is eating my basil we've planted in the ground, so we've gotta fix that. I have some soap spray and beer traps all ready for the little buggers.

So there you have it! We're inspired to make our place in the city as environmentally friendly as possible by planting some of what we eat the most and poking around to find local producers where we can.

You can expect to see far more about our little patio extravaganza as it grows and starts feeding us. Watch for a recipe for stuffed banana peppers (if they turn out delicious).

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